Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 12, 2013

Some W.Va. students turned off by abstinence talk

Associated Press

CHARLESTON — Some students at a Charleston high school say a motivational speaker’s talk to young people about sexual abstinence before marriage was offensive.

Pam Stenzel’s speech Tuesday at George Washington High School prompted some students to leave the assembly upset.

Student Katelyn Campbell said Stenzel used “scare tactics” in her speech on Tuesday.

But Principal George Aulenbacher didn’t think it was inappropriate. Neither did Kanawha County Board of Education member Becky Jordon, who also attended the assembly and whose son is a student.

Jordon said Friday that Stenzel’s strong, forceful tone was probably a “turnoff,” but she believes the message needed to be conveyed.

“I know the principal has gotten positive emails from parents,” Jordon said. “It was just something for kids to think about.”

Stenzel’s visit was sponsored by faith-based Believe in West Virginia. Stenzel also had talks booked this week at a local church, at Riverside High School in Belle, and in St Marys.

Campbell told media outlets there was no religious tone to Tuesday’s speech at George Washington.

Public schools in West Virginia are required to offer comprehensive sex education. County school boards and administrators determine the content of each school’s curriculum. County schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said no school funds were used for the event.

Brenda Green, executive director of West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union, said that if Stenzel’s speech wasn’t based on religion, then the ACLU doesn’t have a First Amendment problem with it.

It wasn’t clear Friday whether students were required to attend or receive parental permission.

“I’m willing to bet they didn’t know their daughters were going to be shamed,” Green said. “There is an effective way to deliver an abstinence message that doesn’t degrade children and doesn’t mislead them.”

Aulenbacher and Colin Hearn, Stenzel’s publicist, didn’t immediately return messages.

“She picked on girls who were sexually active,” Campbell said. “I know there were several girls who left the assembly crying because their feelings were so hurt.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia had the eighth-highest rate of births among teenage girls in 2010, the most recent year available. And the pregnancy rate for girls between 15 and 19 years old increased 17 percent from 2007 to 2009 in West Virginia, which was the only state to see an increase during a time when the national rate hit a seven-decade low.